28 December 2011

How Do You Compose?

I'm a new blogger, and to be honest, sometimes I question the practice. It's the speed of it all, the immediate publishing. I suppose now that I'm committed to regular posting, I'm more likely to defend it. And that's one of the things I like, this blog, and others, makes me think and write often. However, there's something about the composition style that irks me.

Over history the way we write, and therefore the way we think and communicate ideas, has changed - some would say it's more than changed, it's evolved. I'm not so sure technology serves us as well as we suppose.

Before any form of writing, people told stories and exchanged news orally. Since then there have been rapid developments: ink and scroll, printing press, typewriter, word processor (I'm sure there are some gaps in my small timeline). The idea behind each advancement is that we can speed up the process, and therefore improve it.

I'll concede the speed argument, but I'm not altogether sold on improvement.

22 December 2011

A Blur

This Christmas, don't let everything fly by. Better yet, let's make that a goal for all of 2012.

19 December 2011

It's an Elizabeth Taylor Christmas!

Who am I kidding? What I really love, LOVE about Christmas is not the family gatherings, not the lights, the trimmings, the trappings, not new sweaters, not those cute nativity scenes. No, it's really Elizabeth Taylor - especially like this:

An oldie, I know, but such a goodie! Doesn't this just say, "It's Christmas!" to you? It's the hair that gets me, the hair plus the poker game; I just love a hand of poker after I rip open my brand new bottle of cologne!

When all the romance starts oozing out of the television, I know, I KNOW it's time to celebrate the birth of the King! It used to be the Chia Pet, now it's this:

16 December 2011

Deja Vu - So, I'm a Teacher

As a part of the blogfest Deja Vu, hosted by Lydia Kang, DL Hammons, Katie Mills, and Nicole Ducleroir (check out the launch page here as well as each respective blog), I am re-posting "So, I'm a Teacher" from last year. The idea of the blogfest is to give a bit more attention to an old post - a great idea, I thought. So thanks to our hosts!

I hope you will read the post below and see how I was first inspired to launch the independent reading program in my classes. I have continued with the program this year, and I'm finding it very challenging and rewarding. Enjoy!

14 December 2011

Teacher Resource: Biography

I couldn't resist angry Bill Shakespeare over there! Maybe if they learn to read the whole book now, they just might read the whole book later...

One of the many benefits of the reading program I've got going in my classes is the variety of genres I require my students to read. In fact, because I will complete the goal myself, it has freed me from my own reading cycle. I trend toward fantasy mostly, especially when I need an escape (George MacDonald seems to be the best antidote).

It's true of us all - we get into a comfort zone with a certain style of writing, a certain type of story, and we stick with it. We even go back to the same author over and over, don't we? Yet another reason YA books perform so well as a series!

Like I said, it's been good to branch out a bit. I've found that I've read very few biographies, and it's a personal goal to cycle back more often. I just read a decent bio of C.S. Lewis, by his stepson Douglas Gresham.

12 December 2011

Embracing the Mundane

It's hard to find time to write or read; so many times I've wanted to escape into a quiet room with a large old leather chair, plop down, and read. Sure, it's in those times (rare in the years of children) I've had the most inspiration for writing. But things change, and finding time to think about stories, or mull over new ideas for poems, has changed as well.

I now find my evenings filled with domestic chores (after a splash of afternoons where I am James the train helping Thomas and Percy with their loads, or Blizzard fighting Iron Man - or Iron Men, as it were); folding laundry, scrubbing dishes, picking up toys, and gathering trash, all these things require my (and our) attention.

07 December 2011

Word of Encouragement to Insecure Writers

I've been pondering what it is about writers that is so easily associated with insecurity. What's curious is from the outside, from the perspective of readers (specifically those who don't write), this association is confusing. What the reader sees is the finished product, the sales numbers, maybe even the prestige. Even for writers who haven't published anything, when those who don't write hear of our bent for crafting words, they don't immediately think we're as insecure as we may be.

From my experience, the reaction people have toward writers is quite positive. We (ha! we) seem to be seen as gifted, intelligent, and imaginative - not insecure.

This is my view of other writers, too, especially the published-famous variety. One writer in particular, one who made a significant imprint on American Literature, who ended his own life due in part to his insecurities comes to mind: Ernest Hemingway.

05 December 2011

Writing Cycles and Rest

I've been doing some reflecting on silence lately, and specifically how it and stillness relates to this Christmas/winter season. Just before winter truly hits, the fall rains move in; the sound a slow, soaking rain makes is melodic; I can't help but pause and take it in.

Those are such good days. They're book and fire days, or, more popularly in our house, living room-fort building days. Then, of course, the snow itself falls silently, and whatever the rain didn't mute, it blankets and holds in a sort of spell. The air is still; the birds only move when they need to; and the quickest thing around is smoke from nearby chimneys.

A sycamore in rest

I want this atmosphere around me to not only remind me to slow down, but to also be a kind of analogy for myself. A few years ago I discovered that the winter months are not the greatest in which for me to write. I suppose I realized my body actually does react to the weather; what I decided was that I should use that down time wisely and rest.

02 December 2011

Linus on the Meaning of Christmas

It's the first week of December - are you ready to scream your head off like Charlie Brown because of all the crazy Christmasing going on around you? I'm almost there. And I'm not surprised by it, really.

Yes, the consumerism drives me crazy. But that isn't what's on my nerves this year. Mainly, it's the bustle of activity, the plethora of events if you will ("Yes, Christmas, you have a plethora of cattle - uh, events I mean").

We've got to slow things down.

We need to take the cue from creation. Especially when a blanket of white covers the grass, the undergrowth, the streets - everything is silent and still. There should be a collective hush among us humans, too. I'm going to do my boyscout-best to make still my soul this year, which includes crossing some activities off my list. A gathering here, a church service there, but I want my heart to be hushed because it's in awe of what happened on that first Christmas morning.

Here's what Linus had to say - notice the awed Charlie at the end:

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